Thursday, October 30, 2008

Rhyme time

When I've been writing all day, the last thing I want to do when I get home is, you guessed it, write. Which is too bad because I really do enjoy it when I can just write for fun. The hardest part, as with any writing, is getting started. 

If your poetic pump needs priming (alliteration, sweet), I highly suggest The Teachers and Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms. It lists all sorts of poetic styles and terms, which, for me, serve as a proxy for a writing assignment. As a nonfiction guy, my imagination often needs some help to get going, and I find if I have some template to work with, the going is much easier -- and fun. There are other books about poetic form, but the Handbook is the one I usually reach for because of its clear writing and wide range of ideas. 

Last weekend, while flipping through the book, I landed on a form called bouts-rimes, French for "rhymed ends." It kind of sounds like a kids activity: Someone writes down a bunch of rhymed words in alternating sequence and the other fits a poem to them. 

Jen helped with this one, giving me the following words in this order: dance, handle, pants, candle, breathe, vamp (ouch, that's a hard one), leave, camp, fine, stoop, wine, regroup, dusk and musk. 

Well, here goes nothing:

Do you remember the way we used to dance,
the way we used to drink more than we could handle
and gain a pair of shoes and lose a pair of pants,
the way we'd light a candle with another candle
for your birthday cake and let the flames breathe
in your breath, the way you used to to vamp
down A1A after 2 a.m. made you leave,
the way we used to sleep beside a camp-
fire, how the smoke made everything fine,
the way we had to stoop
to get inside the tent without spilling our wine,
the way the mosquitoes would regroup
at the dawning of dusk,
their hungry dance in the midnight musk?

OK, now everybody play.

Any suggestions for a title, by the way? 

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Responsibility...

I did my civic duty today and voted.

I wish I could do it again and again.

Voting is a great reminder of a core belief of mine: great responsibility, great reward.

Voting was a bit taxing. Here is the line:


This is the second time I've tried to vote. The first time, the line was even longer.

It took about 10 minutes of standing in line outside the "voting room." Then, there was another 20 minutes inside while my ballot was prepared.

Aside from the glitch that arose with my and a couple of other ballots that caused us to have to wait longer, I was ecstatic that there was actually a line to vote! People are taking this election seriously, and I believe the turnout will be record breaking.

Gov. Crist actually declared a state of emergency, because so many people were participating in early voting that extra hours were needed. That is AWESOME!

When I finally got to cast my ballot, here's where I sat:


One disconcerting thing was the lack of privacy in this room. I could clearly see who the man next to me voted for (and it wasn't my guy!). 

I voted for the candidate I believe is best for the job: Barack Obama. I've been reluctant to reveal my voting preference here, as I know several of my friends support John McCain, and I respect their decisions. I never want politics to be something that causes a rift between me and my loved ones, which is why I'll only talk politics with someone who asks (and then I won't shut up!).

But, I feel like revealing my choice at this point is necessary. I'm sure my friends who disagree with my choice will respect it and me just as I do them and theirs.

In the end, this is what it's all about anyway:


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dog Days of Autumn...

We finally got a chance to take Oscar and Nacho to a dog park today. The drive was about 45 minutes, but it was worth it just to get them some exercise. 

Nacho made friends (some were a bit TOO friendly...)


Then he tried to cloak himself in the scents that all his new friends left on the ground...


We brought Oscar a tennis ball, and he was the star of the park. We had to make him take breaks, because he was playing so hard.


As you can see, he was a happy camper...


And when we got home, the puppies dove right into their usual position...





Finally Facing My Waterloo...

I've decided I was born in the wrong decade. 

I have always loved some of the big 70s disco hits: "Stayin' Alive," "Get Down Tonight," and, of course, "Dancing Queen." But ever since I went to see Mamma Mia this summer, Abba fever has swept over me.

Last weekend, my condition advanced to Abbamania!

Since I've had Abba Gold playing nonstop in my car, I've been an addict. Even Jeremy couldn't resist some of the catchiest tunes, like "Lay Your Love on Me" and "Voulez Vous."

So, being the wonderful husband he is, Jeremy sucked up his manly pride and surprised me with tickets to Abbamania Friday. 

We were told the show would be symphonic versions of Abba songs, which was partially true... 


Little did we know, the symphony orchestra was accompanied by four singers, dressed as Abba look-alikes.

(Yikes...)


Some highlights from the show:

- The lead violinist got the giggles at the start of the show and couldn't stop laughing throughout.

- A group of ladies, clearly on a "girl's night out," were jumping and dancing in the balcony across from us, which was situated directly above the stage.

- The entire audience consisted of bored septuagenarians, who were clearly annoyed that their symphony season tickets went toward a show like this.

- But even the oldies got into it when they played "Fernando," and the entire audience was swaying back and forth with their hands in the air.

It was a great night, filled with tons of fun numbers and great memories.

And if anyone dares question the merits of Abba, I leave you with this album cover:


Enough said!





Monday, October 20, 2008

Jeremy's readables

You lead a busy life. You're forgiven for not keeping up with my stories. 

Here's what you've been missing over lo these past few months:

I wrote a lot of stories about breast cancer. Turns out, October is breast cancer awareness month. (Psst, that's what's up with all those pink ribbons.) I profiled some men who have had breast cancer, checked in with imaging centers to find out how long it takes to get an appointment for a routine mammogram, and wrote about the disparity between the number of women who could avoid mastectomies but get them anyway.

When I wasn't writing about breasts, I was looking at the low but potentially more serious incidence of melanoma among African Americans.

I drove to Orlando to hear some political heavy-hitters smack health insurance around for a while. Oh, and I got to meet Tommy Thompson.

A doctor rehabbed his love for medicine by volunteering, and the story turned out to be much more interesting than that description sounds. 

Off the health topic, I read a book about the civil rights movement in St. Augustine (with a cameo by MLK himself) and reviewed it. 

As you can tell, my head's getting kind of full. I'd better start deleting some old files. I can start with this one way in the back with all that old calculus junk in it. Won't be needing that. Oops, I got the "how to type" file instead. That could be a probffffff feino annei ioa eyt42 asn FDDDDDDDDDDDD

"Falling" in Love...

Things I LOVE about fall!!

Pumpkin bread:


Sitting outside in 60 degree weather:


Sipping a Starbucks skinny hot chocolate with whipped cream while wearing a light jacket, surrounded by shade trees in the quad:


More to come...

Trick or Doggie Treat...

Well, we thought of some unique ways to torture the bears (Oscar and Nacho) this weekend.

Halloween costumes!

Here's our adorable pumpkin (Nacho):


And our bumble bee (Oscar):


Look how much they LOVE it!



Normally, we are not "those people" who dress our dogs up. However, there was a great dog festival in the park, and we couldn't resist!

Mom, Rich, and the kids came up for a visit this weekend, so we thought it would be a great way to enjoy the cool Autumn day.

Here's Rich and Nacho:


And mom with the little guy:


Oscar, who was actually calm for a moment between snapping at the big dogs who dared look at him:


We entered them in a costume contest, which was fun. Unfortunately, there were 85 entries, and some of them were really original, so we didn't win.

Here I am parading the bears in front of the judges (anyone else thinking of Best in Show?):


And last, but not least, we brought our family friend, Sue's, daughter, Delany (sorry about the spelling!), with us to enjoy the show: (you can really see Nacho's one blue eye well in this picture!)


It was a beautiful, adorable day!

Pretty in Pink...

Jeremy and I spent Saturday afternoon enjoying Jacksonville while volunteering downtown. 

The Florida Times-Union, where Jeremy works, decided to create a special "pink" edition of the newspaper to sell downtown. The proceeds went to help women dealing with breast cancer pay for their treatment.

Here's what the pink paper looked like: (a few old people complained that they couldn't read it, even though the printing was clearer than usual!)


Here's Jeremy, peddling our wares:


And here's me doing the same:


We were stationed at The Landing, a cool restaurant/entertainment spot right on the St. John's River downtown. There was an "art festival" going on while we were there (I put "art festival" in quotes, because there were only a handful of exhibits.)

Here's one of the artists reading the paper:


While we were working, we were entertained by cool jugglers...


We also got to enjoy a nice view!


Overall, it was a great day to be a do-gooder!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Time After Time

SO sorry I have been absent for awhile. Things have been really busy with school, but I'll try not to be so slack in the future.

However, I will be spending a bit less time with this blog, because I have started a new one. My new site, www.78picas.tumblr.com, will deal specifically with journalism issues (mostly pertaining to new media and convergence). I'm doing this in an effort to get my research topics organized and to stay abreast of the changes in the industry. I hope you'll check it out.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, Jeremy and I went to my 10-year high school reunion. Woah...


We had a great time visiting with my old friends and acquaintances. But, I must mention something a bit odd...

I went to my reunion hoping to impress (as most of us do). I figured people would be wowed by my going back to school or my cool career in journalism or, mostly, my hottie of a husband.

Strangely, none of those things seemed to matter. 

No, the most impressive thing was -- wait for it --

We took a train to the reunion.

It's all anyone wanted to talk about! 

Really?!? 


The train ride was actually enjoyable. It took about 10 hours, but, as we traveled overnight, it didn't feel that long.

The seats were comfy, there was plenty of leg room, and the lounge did not fail to impress.


It's funny how things change so much in some ways, but not at all in others. 

Here's a group of us that were close in high school. Funnily enough, we chose to meet at Las Margaritas, our old hangout from back in the day.

It was just assumed we would meet there.

(From left: me, Allison, Laura, Becky, Melissa, Jenny, and Katie).


It was great catching up with everybody. Even though we're all in very different places in our lives and so much time has passed, we were able to conduct a conversation like we had just seen each other yesterday.

After lunch, Jeremy and I dolled up for the reunion.


I had a great time catching up with old friends...


But what was even cooler was the time I spent talking with people I really didn't know that well in high school.


It's funny how people seem so different, so out-of-touch, when you're all crammed in a high school. Yet, in the real world, without the barriers of cliques and frenemies, we are able to connect with people with whom we truly share interests.

What's even cooler is that since the reunion, I have been in touch with several classmates via Facebook who I didn't even get a chance to chat with at the reunion. I've even been able to forge some friendships there, including one with a former cheerleader I barely knew, who is also getting her PhD. and has offered me some valuable advice.

I must say, the real world is treating me much better than high school ever did!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Walk in My Shoes...

Jeremy and I traveled to Gainesville last weekend for a picnic with some of my fellow graduate students. We had a great time chatting with my classmates and professors at Gainesville's private lake, Lake Wauberg.

Afterwards, Jeremy and I went over to the university so he could show me around the parts of campus I have yet to traverse. 

Here we are in the music building:


UF has one of the largest pipe organs in the country. Here's Jeremy demonstrating its enormity: 


And here's the famous bell tower. It might look familiar if you remember the movie Parenthood. It's from the scene where Kevin Buckman goes on a shooting spree in Steve Martin's dream!


This is my home away from home: Weimer Hall. All of my classes are here, including the ones I teach. The other day, I never left the third floor in eight hours! Sad...


And this is the semi-new duck pond amphitheater. I haven't been around to see anything happening there, but I'm told it's pretty cool. 



By the way, in case you missed it, the Gators are 3-0 after our major triumph over Tennessee this weekend! GO GATORS!!!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Sweet (Fort) Caroline

Bar none, the best fake fort in Florida is Fort Caroline National Memorial, just east of Jacksonville. The French came here in the 1560s and said something to the effect of, "Hey, just in case someone builds Walt Disney World in Florida, let's put a fort here." And that's what they did. But the Spanish were all like, "You're not Catholic enough." So, they walked up from St. Augustine and routed them some French. It's all here.

The fort is long gone. But a new one was put up in roughly the same spot in the 1960s. A park ranger calls it "Fort Fak-ee." But it's right on the St. Johns. And there's a nice nature trail attached to it.

And dog-friendly. Here's Oscar and me chilling on a fake wall thing.


Nacho should probably not be this close to a cannon, even if it doesn't work.

Who knew that the 16th century French cared so much about lawn maintenance? 

Nice walk up and down some hills -- yes, actual hills in Florida. Check the motion blur. We were really moving.

And here's what Northeast Florida looks like. Not Mount Cheaha. Not the Everglades. A nice in-between. 


Friday, August 29, 2008

A Long Summer...

I know it has been awhile since I've posted, but, as those of you who have spoke with me know, it has been an incredibly insane week. Some of it good, some of it really bad, but most of it just nutty.

I'll get more into my first week of school later. Right now, I need to write about the really bad:

After a couple of years of strange, inexplicable health problems, my great aunt, Susan, passed away Tuesday night. As I was not in the loop on the day-to-day health issues she experienced, I was completely stunned.

Although she was my grandmother's sister, she truly was a "great aunt" to me. Because my uncle worked for Delta, I spent my childhood with her at nearly every family function, hardly even realizing she lived hours away in Atlanta. She was such a huge part of my young life, and I always lit up when she was around.

I've often told family members the following story in order to convey what she meant to me:

When I was 8 or 9 years old, I went camping with my family up in Georgia, and Aunt Susan and Uncle Jim joined us. My grandfather was chopping wood for the campfire with a small ax, and I decided I wanted to contribute. So, I grabbed the ax and began to chop the wood, too.

As I was very small, it took me quite some time to do the work my grandfather could do in seconds. He offered many times to help, but I refused, determined to do the work myself.

Aunt Susan observed all of this, and, with cigarette characteristically in hand, turned to me and said matter-of-factly, "Jeni, you're going to be somebody someday."

I remember it like it was yesterday. What she said resonated with me more than any encouragement that ever came from my parents to immediate family members. When Aunt Susan said something, she meant it. It was clear she had made up her mind about me. I never forgot it, and I always tried harder to live up to her proclamation. 

As I've prepared to go to her funeral in Atlanta, I've thought a lot about what she said to me. I wondered if she was aware of the work I'm doing at UF. When I first told people I am getting my doctorate, they were surprised, and I'm sure some thought (and still think) I am nuts.

I don't think Aunt Susan would have been surprised. I think she knew how far I could push myself all along.

I've had those thoughts on my mind during the past couple of days since I got the news. But this morning, I woke up with a new one. I know just what Aunt Susan thought of me, and it meant the world to me. I wonder if she new what I thought of her.

I don't think it's too late now to tell her that I am proud of her. I'm proud of the way she raised her family, of her independence, and of her assuredness. I value the way she made herself a part of all our lives, and I love the way she could always make us laugh and then turn around and make us take a closer look at who we were.

Most of all, I'm amazed by the way she snagged all of our hearts. When we're in Atlanta this weekend, her absence will be as permeating as her presence was.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Orienting...

Just a quick update, because I'm so exhausted!

I started orientation at the University of Florida today. It went well, although it wore me out. After a month off, getting up at 5:30 a.m. was brutal!

This morning, I was one of a couple thousand new graduate students (master's and doctorate) to enter the school. What was astonishing, though, was that about three-fifths of the students there were international students -- about half Middle Eastern and the other half Asian. 

It was amazing to me how motivated these students were to come to a new country, where they barely speak the language, and they're able to do exactly what I'm doing. Incredible.

I met up with a small group of friends -- one of whom I'm carpooling with, and the other I'll be teaching with. We had a nice lunch, and, since they all completed their undergrad degrees at UF, they showed me around campus. Very nice girls.

After that, we returned to the student union, and we were among the hundreds of teaching assistants beginning this year. My teaching professor gave a speech to everyone, which was great. She's so enthusiastic and helpful. I know I'll have a great experience working with her.

I start again early tomorrow. So far, our schedule is the same, despite Tropical Storm Fay bearing down on us. Will keep you all posted on that!


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Sans Mrs. Robinson...


Jeremy and I spent the weekend back in Alabama (hopefully for the last time) at graduation!

Finally, it is over!


Here are the obligatory million family pictures...

Us with the Brannocks:


Us with my mom:


Us with the Cox family:


The whole gang:


With Dad & Mindy:


And joking around with the siblings:


We arrived Friday with my mom, and we immediately grabbed James and Josh and went to have some beers at a bar called Rhythm & Brews. After that, we met up with Dad and Mindy, along with our friend Steven, from Anniston, for dinner at a wonderful Italian place called DePalmas.

The graduation ceremony Saturday morning went quickly. Apparently, UA no longer welcomes speakers due to an incident that occurred a year ago. From what we were told, a speaker made some political comments and it got ugly. He was booed offstage and had to have a police escort out of the building.

Only in Alabama...

After lunch and a quick, much-needed nap, we all went to the Brannock's hotel and had some drinks and pool time.

Here's Josh:



The Cox twins:


Mom (along with Josh's floating head):


The guys hanging out in the hot tub:


And the ladies chatting on dry land:


After the pool, we all got dressed up and went for a great dinner at a Shakespearean-themed restaurant, called The Globe. Everything was delicious, and the company was outstanding.

Now, our whirlwind weekend is over, and it's time to start thinking about the next step.

Jeremy's job is going really well, and we're loving Jacksonville.

I start orientation at UF on Monday, and classes begin the following week. I'm nervous, but feeling good.

But for now, I'm enjoying the last precious moments of vacation time before my life becomes insane again!